Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in me
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Avocados do not grow in Berlin, Germany, where I currently live, but years ago I lived in southern California where they grew in abundance. Our next-door neighbor had a grove and allowed us to take as many avocados as we wanted. Warm, sun-ripened avocados were the main ingredient for many sandwiches, salads, and, of course, guacamole. Now I have a hard time bringing myself to spend nearly two Euros on one fruit. The other day I found a great bargain: three avocados for two Euros at a little vegetable stand near the bustling subway station. I got them and immediately started dreaming of the guacamole I would make out of them. Guacamole is one of those comfort foods that reminds me of the warm climate in which I grew up, the hot sun that both the avocados and my body so readily absorbed, and the smooth texture of my life thirteen years ago. All that changed the day I moved away to a cold, dark, and sometimes rough foreign land.
I was sorely disappointed when cutting into one of the avocados. I discovered brown, stringy veins throughout most of the fruit. I cut into the second one and found the same thing—and you guessed it, the third one was no better. They had looked so good from the outside…
Determined to get something for my money, I proceeded with an attempt to de-vein them. The fruits’ vascular systems were so intertwined with the flesh that I ended up having to crush the flesh to a pulp; then I could remove the dark, fibrous mass. It was a time-consuming operation, and my mind followed those strings somewhat subconsciously to their logical end. I felt like Solomon in the book of Proverbs, subtly being instructed by nature about God’s realities.
Is my life like this avocado, looking good on the outside but rotting at the core? Is my moral fiber strong, healthy, and yet soft to God’s working, or am I tough, resistant to God in my sin, and rotting away from the inside out, making me unpalatable to God and others around me? The avocado reminds me of the truths I know about sanctification. I am, once and for all, chosen (dare I say picked?) and declared righteous by Jesus’ atoning death. As such, I am seen as holy by God. This is definitive sanctification (2 Tim. 2:1; Eph. 5:25ff; 1 Thess. 4:7; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Titus 2:14; and Rom. 6:1–7:6). Nevertheless, God still has some work to do on me. My rotten moral fiber is so intertwined with my flesh that God has to do surgery on me too—carefully, patiently, lovingly removing those rotting veins that are spoiling me from the inside out. This is called progressive sanctification (Philippians 1:6 and 2:12-13, and 1 John 3:2-3). I had to crush the avocado’s flesh in order to remove the stringy veins. I have noticed that God often uses crushing events in my life to “de-vein” me of the remains of sinful pride and self-reliance, and to make me soft and receptive to His plans for reshaping me according to His taste. For me, much of God’s merciful crushing happened to me when He plucked me, unripened, from a life of comfort and ease, and transported me to a colder and darker destination where I felt put on display like an exotic fruit for foreign eyes to scrutinize. Simple experiences like going to the grocery store left me bruised, as someone inevitably yelled at me for being in the way, not having the correct change, or not being fast enough in my bagging. When someone would criticize me, whether for my kids not wearing a hat or for parking in the wrong place, it would bring forth anger that left me physically shaking. The nasty emotions emerging from my heart on a daily basis revealed the dark fibers that God was slowly extracting from my life. For me, it took God moving me here, where people dare to disagree with me and tell me off. God is still at work crushing my sinful pride through some cultural and relational issues I face here that I might never have faced had I stayed in my nice Californian grove! I do want to love God with every fiber of my being, but I cannot do it by myself. I need the Spirit’s sanctifying work.
As my mind came to the end of its musings about sanctification and my fingers consciously took over, I finished the guacamole. It tasted pretty good in the end. A little lime, a little salsa—and the avocados were saved. I think I can confidently say that that is my story too. Even if the process is messy, God will finish the good work He has begun in me for His glory.
Question to consider: What are ways that you see God in the “messy” process of finishing “the good work He has begun” in you?